Mangalore: Four-lane Port Connectivity Project - Reality Check

Aug 3, 2009

That Karnataka is the I T capital of India is well established and well-known.  What is not known to most of us is that when it comes to National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) projects it is said that Karnataka is on an equal footing with Bihar, lagging behind in all aspects of implementing NHAI projects.  One can but envision the fate of various projects undertaken by NHAI in the state that are moving at a snail’s pace or are stalled midway, having been caught in a whirl pool of controversies. Unfortunately the list includes the much hyped ongoing 37.5 kms stretch four-lane Port Connectivity Project between Surathkal and B C Road, Mangalore.  So we need not have a more convincing example to reaffirm Karnataka’s position vis-à-vis other states that would certainly put a question mark on its reputation 

This much-touted four-lane high way project is in the news once again and for all the wrong reasons, as has been the case ever since the 4-laning project began.  It is the apathy of our elected representatives, our bureaucracy and the ‘it does not bother me’ attitude of the citizens of the district that are prompting National Highway Authority of India to shelve this project any time,   Given the present status of the project and the hurdles that have been put on its path, the signals are out and clear. NHAI wants to put an end to its nightmarish experience for the past four years, ever since this ambitious project was begun.  

Threat to Quit: 

The four-lane road with six one way and one two-way flyover, was considered to be a solution for traffic snarls and other ills that affects traffic on NH’s 13, 17 and 48 passing through the district.  The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) which is in charge of the project, has finally decided to call it quits and leave the project in “as it is stage” if the state does not extend cooperation in implementing the project. The main grouse of the NHAI is that it is not getting the required co-operation from the state government and the local authorities in completing the project.  Despite extending the deadline twice it has failed to make any considerable progress.  

The deadlock on the project has arisen mainly because the IRCON International Ltd, the contractors of NHAI, has requested NHAI to relieve them from the project due to the losses they have suffered as a result of delay.  “To relieve means we will have to close the project, as IRCON feels there is no chance of the situation improving”, Gawasane says.  He further adds, “in any project, we have to take into account the interest of the people.  If majority of the people of the district are against the project, there is no way we can go ahead with our work”.  

Under this backdrop, Project Director of NHAI P N Gawasane says, “now we have decided to complete the work wherever the land is available, even in patches.  We have completed 21 kms of four-lane work out of the 37.5 kms involved in the project. If we find there is nothing to work, we will close the project as it is.  We will complete the work by December 2009 but the decision on the closure will be taken within a month or two”.  

No Land – No Work 

According to Gawasane, the state government has not been able to handover the notified land for the project, despite NHAI’s efforts to get the land required.  Underground water and electric cables in Kulur and Nanthoor junction have not been shifted to enable them to undertake the work of the flyovers.  “Both the Mangalore City Corporation (MCC) and the MESCOM have not heeded to our requests to shift utilities.  With obstacles at every step, we have been doing patch works wherever the land is clear for us to go ahead with the work.  In Surathkal where the building is under litigation we have left that portion and gone ahead with our work”, contends Gawasane. 

NHAI says, it is the combination of the lethargic attitude of bureaucracy, elected representatives and lack of interest evinced by the people in ensuring that the authorities concerned work in earnestness to get the project completed, serves as the main stumbling block.  A document available with daiji shows that the home minister had complained to the government about the slow progress of work on NHAI in the meeting chaired by Chief Minister on 7th July 2008.  Though instructions were given to the officials concerned including the district deputy commissioner to speed up the work, no concrete steps have been taken in the past one year. 

There were 13 litigation cases that came under the purview of this project out of which 11 are disposed and two are still pending.  These petitions include those that blocked the work being undertaken in Nanthoor junction.  Of the 11 disposed cases, five have gone for writ appeal, which means the NHAI has not yet been able to acquire the land required to carry on the project smoothly.


MCC & MESCOM – Scapegoats or villains?   

If we are made to believe that the ball is in the court of MCC or MESCOM, here is a reality check. Mayor Shankar Bhat, when contacted, categorically denied that MCC was responsible for the delay in shifting the cables.  “NHAI has awarded the contract of shifting cables to L & T.  Whenever we have been asked to make payments, we have done and so far we have deposited almost 8 crores for this purpose.  In fact, it is NHAI which is not taking us into confidence or consulting us.  Ever since I have become mayor, I have not been consulted or called for any meetings in this regards.  We come to know about all the developments only through the press”, said a furious Shankar Bhat when contacted for his comments.   He also pointed out that it is the responsibility of NHAI to get the land records cleared and local authorities cannot get into this aspect of clearing land records.   

Shankar Bhat said that the corporation is ready to talk to the NHAI officials because he feels,  they cannot put the blame on the City Corporation and get away without completing the project.  “We would like to talk to NHAI and settle the issue with regard to our lapses vis-à-vis their inefficiency,” he added. 

Executive engineer of MESCOM, who did not want to be named when contacted, puts the blame squarely on NHAI saying “the project is delayed mainly because of land acquisition problem and not due to shifting of underground cables.  The work of shifting of cables is entrusted to L & T but they are not able to undertake the work as NHAI has failed to clear the corridor required to shift the cables.  If they provide a clear corridor MESCOM is ready to start the work”, says the official. 

The MESCOM contends that if NHAI begins the work, then they would get some idea on the work Mescom is to undertake.  Giving an example of the languid attitude of NHAI, he Executive Engineer of MESCOM says “the NHAI could at least start the work of shifting the over line cables between Kulshekar and Nanthoor.  This work should have been undertaken by NHAI, which they have failed to do.  Though estimation is sanctioned to undertake this work, NHAI has failed to execute the work.  

The MESCOM official blames the NHAI for the present impasse, saying that though MESCOM had cleared the cables near Kaikamba to enable NHAI to begin the work on the pillars for the flyover a year back, the work has not yet been started.   

The MESCOM official also adds that the Rs 1.75 crore deposited to shift the underground cables of master unit sub station in Nanthoor is only a part of the work.  The money deposited with the MESCOM is only for one part of the job.  The work involving a balance of 4.25 crores has to be executed by the NHAI.  NHAI says it has deposited six crore rupees with MESCOM, a charge denied by MESCOM officials.  Executive Engineer says only Rs 1.75 crore has been received by the MESCOM so far. 

People’s representatives speak 

When contacted telephonically, MP Nalin Kumar Kateel, who is in Delhi for the parliament session, said that nothing would happen to the project.  “I have raised the issue with regard to the project in the ongoing parliament session.  I have even met the NHAI engineers concerned in the regard. Nothing would happen to the project and it would go on. Actually the project has got an extension up to Kundapur”, he stated.  He further added “The problem with NHAI is that it is not taking local people and local representatives into confidence, leading to misunderstanding”.  

MLA Krishna Palemar is very forthright in his criticism of the functioning of NHAI.  “NHAI has never done the work sincerely despite allotting clear land.  Let them answer whether they have done the work where the land is clear?” asked an irritated Palemar. Palemar. He said, it is true there are litigations with regard to acquisition of land.  “It is the duty of NHAI to get clear records.  They cannot blame the representatives or local leaders for their inefficiency”, he pointed out.  Palemar said “we will not allow NHAI to run away from its responsibility.  They are answerable to the people.  It is only a tactic the officials are adopting to conceal their own lacunae”, he said. 

Deadline extended  

Now once again December 2009 is the deadline given to NHAI to finish the work.  It may be recalled here that the project which was started in 2005 was to be completed by December 2007. It got extended again in 2008. The project got extension twice, largely due to the issue of litigation with regard to land acquisition.  As a result, the cost of the project also has been rising from 196 crores in 2003 to about Rs. 250 crores as on December 2009.  While the cost of civil construction is Rs. 168 crores utility shifting payment has come to about Rs. 29 crores which includes land acquisition, support staff salaries, payment to forest department etc,.   

NHAI seems to have learnt a bitter lesson out of its experience in Mangalore.  Project Director Gawsane says NHAI “would not begin the work if 80 per cent of the land acquisition is not done before the project gets started.  

Judging impassively, the project lacks co-ordination at various levels such as the local representatives, bureaucracy, elected representatives and the NHAI officials. Given the track record of NHAI, which has shelved projects earlier citing similar reasons in Tuticorin and Kochi to name a few, such abandoned project hardly gets any bidders and it does not get takers.  

It is therefore imperative that the project should go on in the larger interests of the district.  Having endured all the hardships in the last four years as a result of the work undertaken by NHAI in a haphazard manner, it cannot just walk out of the project at its own whims and fancies.  It is high time NHAI pulls itself together and goes ahead with its work, rather than get itself into the blame game.

by Florine Roche <br>Pics by Dayananda Kukkaje<br>Daijiworld Media Network
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Comment on this article

  • vijay, Mangalore/Bangalore

    Thu, Aug 06 2009

    First of all Government has to give good support to speed up the NHAI work & check the progress of work time to time and give suggestion to Engineers to progress the construction. The Local leaders must keep communication with NHAI officers to manage the progress of work. I thank Daijiworld forthis informative article.

  • Krip Punja, Los Angeles/Mangalore

    Thu, Aug 06 2009

    Indian cars that have the ability to go faster than the ancient Ambassadors are getting on better roads and want to go as fast as possible as speed limits are rarely posted and if posted are not enforced. But then we are a secular country when it comes not only to our religions, but also as it applies to the rich, not so rich and the poor.

    So three wheeler tut tuts as they are fondly or sarcastically referred to by our fair skinned visitors compete for the same space on the same roads while going many times slower, as do overladen trucks. The net result is dangerous conditions on our highways. While India must be commended for proudly displaying its wealthy without suppressing the poor, we will for the foreseeable future have these chaotic conditions until all sections of society share in the newly created wealth.

    Compare this to China where the highways have fast traffic and the slower means of transportation of the poor are not visible not because they are not there, but they are kept away. Socially we are to be commended, while visually we look like a country in chaos. Only time will tell if our approach will work better than China''s.

  • Imdadullah, Kotekar/Saudi Arabia

    Wed, Aug 05 2009

    I dont agree with MCC fully blaming NHAI for the delay in the project. first we should understand India is a place where constant follow up is a must for the job to be done & Govt run offices make u run from poles to pillars without much movement of the file. so where was MCC when the project was haulted for months together. was it not the duty of MCC (officials) to follow up & get the job done (if not on time but finally done)... Any improvements in the infrastructure in a particular area will benefit the commuters & the locals of that area. Wake up MCC stop playing the fool & start doing what is minimum expected from the officials.

  • Ahmed, Mangalore

    Wed, Aug 05 2009

    This sort of public problems are less commented by our best readers than communal issues.You can count the number of comments,if it is communal issue,comments overflow.

  • Raj, Padil

    Wed, Aug 05 2009

    Dr Kiran Acharya is right. People of Mangalore are responsible for this delay. Please don''t blame any governments...

  • Ronnie, Kinnigoli/Canada

    Wed, Aug 05 2009

    I humbly request to stop this "Tu Tu Mein Mein". It is a shame. Our population is exploding and we are nowhere near to the much needed infrastructure. Being residents of the region, we have failed to sacrifice a little bit of land for our nation''s needs and we also failed to hold our elected representatives of the region accountable for not showing any personal interest in such a vital project.

  • John Vas, Kulshekar/Dubai

    Wed, Aug 05 2009

    CAN I ASK ? Where are the Ministers giving deadline by deadline that B.C.Road to Surathkal road will be completed such such an date without knowing facts & figures. It is shameful act of Ministers before and after election to give dates without consulting the right department and fooling the citizens.

     Ministers must do the right homework meeting all departments before going to press and if they say something they have work for it. See an example of Mangalore Airport they always stick and work for the date to complete and if there is delay they come on right time. Shame on you ministers for giving false assurances in press conferences to cool down citizens temporarily by false dates..


    Wed, Aug 05 2009

    Ircon,NHAI and project consultants are equally involved in delaying the projecting.Who should cooperate to complete the Kottara Flyover......? Is there any firm other than ircon is involved....?

  • antony dsa, Mangalore

    Tue, Aug 04 2009

    What is stopping NHAI from completing the flyovers?? why are they left half done. The shoddy quality of work done on them shows what kind of company IRCON is!!!!

  • Gurubaliga, Bantwal

    Tue, Aug 04 2009

    Good Article. A project of this scale needs freeflow of resources and clearence. If it goes beyond its expected deadline then project will surely fall sick.

  • shane, M.lore/dxb

    Tue, Aug 04 2009

    Nice coverage Team Daiji. Its real pity that NHAI & MCC have failed in each aspect of this project since this project of laying 37.5 Kms 4 lane port connectivity Road, Which is still under construction since 2005 extended twice again no hope of finishing it before 2009,

    Our leaders talk big but works like irresponsible persons, Are they really concerned of the common man greivances..? or they wake-up once in a five year for begging votes..? Incredible India !!!!

  • Jatin, Mangalore

    Tue, Aug 04 2009

    As far as iam aware, National highway means Central govt controlled and State highway means State Govt controlled. I cannot understand why are readers blaming the State govt while Funds need to pour from the central govt.

    The Bangalore - Chennai route was done during the Vajapayee''s rule. Infact Manmohan Singh has agreed that NDA govt had done a fantastic job in building International standards roads and he has not come anywhere close to it.It can be checked in their own govt,s highway website .Where has Oscar or Moily gone?

    Since they are in the central and they need to stress to get these roads done. Muniappa was handling Highways in the previous UPA govt and was the worst phase , DK ever experienced. Now he handles Railways which has already seen it going to Kannur. Readers need to be more aware who has to be blamed since most of them sound typical stereotypes.

  • Ronald D, Udupi

    Tue, Aug 04 2009

    There is no co-operation between NHAI, MCC, MESCOM, elected reps and State Govt. This is BJP development Mantra, rendering Raw deal to DK. No one wants to talk to each other. Keep the pride aside and make plan to implement the road project to reduce daily accidents. Loss of life is bigger than the Ego. Thank you Daiji for your most illustrative article on current problems.

  • B.P.Pai, Baidebettu/Kuwait

    Tue, Aug 04 2009

    The BJP govt in karnataka has done nothing for south canara and north canara district. Both these districts voted overwhelmingly in the last elections in favor of BJP. NH17 is such a busy road and daily minimum one student gets killed on the road. If the govt cant provide minimum amenities to protect the lives of citizens, it has no right to continue. Its people power which brought BJP in to ruling and its the same people will kick them out if they dont deliver. when we have basic burning issues like good roads, power, drinking water, what are those so called protectors of society/moral values are doing?

    I have heard about millions of road blocks/strikes conducted throughout Mangalore/Kundapur section by general public. nothing seems to wake up BJP govt who is sleeping like Kumbhakarna. They come and go in their helicopters, they want to build helipads every 200 kms. why cant they use the same road, provided by them only, to general public.? My sincere request to general public. Kick them out if they dont perform. There is a limit for tolerence.

  • Ajay, UK

    Tue, Aug 04 2009

    I recently travelled on the Chennai -Bangalore Highway . It was fantastic. The golden quadrilateral project from Chennai to Mumbai and Bangalore Hyderabad - Kolkotta have all been done to perfection. It is only in Kerala and Coastal Karnataka where the project have run into problems with land acquistion and other problems related to shifting of lines. It is also true that Mangalore corporation has gone slow over shifting of pipelies etc.

    It will be a disaster if they were to close this project now. No one would ever bid for future projects in Coastal Karnataka.

  • Dr Kiran Acharya, Udupi/Udupi

    Tue, Aug 04 2009

    With all the blame game, we should give credit to the IRCON for construction, while the traffic is still moving! Nowhere in the world, such major construction would take place, while the regular traffic moves on...However we should introspect ourselves before blaming the Govt(central/state/corporation)...Who created hurdles, by dragging the four laning work to the hounourable courts?- thus causing delay.

  • sujithpolali, polali,riyadh

    Tue, Aug 04 2009

    Really wonderful job Daijiteam.  I hope our MP will make NHAI departement awake after reading this article

  • Sudhakar Poojary, Baikady/Dubai

    Tue, Aug 04 2009

    Not a surprise in the Kingdom of corrupt political system. This is the liberty given to our politicians in the biggest democracy in the world to make money & property. Shame if this project comes to an end without achieving its objective.

  • Fernandes Francis , Mangalore

    Tue, Aug 04 2009

    Blame game started as usual. Why start the project if land acquisition is incomplete ? . People are suffering due to delay is project. Local or the NHAI representative should co-operate and see that the Project is completed within the alloted contractual terms. Stop politics like state & central blame game and fool the people.

  • Jerome, Mangalore

    Mon, Aug 03 2009

    Only NHAI cab not be blamed,the contractor IRCON is the main culprit in the poor progress.They always search for reasons for the delay.Just see the fly overs and you can make out clearly.


    Mon, Aug 03 2009

    The present Government is sleeping.They don''t want the Developement they want to show job is on going.People watch and they know every move you make, everything you politicise.You want the credit let your work talk,no use of spinning the toungue.Still the work is scattered only till suratkal, what about Udupi and till kundapur?

  • John Naval, Udipi / Dubai

    Mon, Aug 03 2009

    I really appreciate Daiji on this issue, & please keep away from highlighting Rakhi''s swayamvar on daiji.

  • Arun Menezes, Udupi / Kuwait

    Mon, Aug 03 2009

    What is the government doing, this is what I call a National Waste and not Rakhi doing a swyamvar on television. Every INCH of the project has to be completed and the state government cannot squander tax payers hard earned money.


    Mon, Aug 03 2009

    Daijiworld, really appreciate your contribution in highlighting the developmental work in and around Mangalore and generating public opinion in constructive way. Keep it up.

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Title: Mangalore: Four-lane Port Connectivity Project - Reality Check

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